Calisthenics Book Review: “Overcoming Gravity” by Steven Low

As a calisthenics coach, I’ve always been on the lookout for resources that not only deepen my understanding of bodyweight training but also serve as a guide for athletes at all levels. Today, I want to introduce you to a cornerstone in the world of calisthenics literature: “Overcoming Gravity” by Steven Low (Amazon Affiliate link). This book isn’t just another training manual; it’s a comprehensive exploration of gymnastics and bodyweight strength that has greatly influenced the way we approach our training.

Steven Low, a respected name in the field of bodyweight training, brings together a unique blend of scientific knowledge and practical experience. His background as a gymnast and a physiotherapist shines through in this work, offering a perspective that’s both technically sound and rich in real-world application. For anyone who’s ever been interested in the sheer potential of human strength and agility, “Overcoming Gravity” is a treasure trove of insights.

It’s not just another fitness book; it’s more like a training bible for those passionate about mastering their body strength and gymnastics skills.

Eric Smith, coach at Black Cross Athletics

In this book, Low takes us through a journey that begins with the foundational principles of bodyweight training. He doesn’t just list exercises and routines; he delves into the why and how of each movement. This approach is what sets “Overcoming Gravity” apart. It’s not just about getting stronger or mastering impressive skills; it’s about understanding the intricacies of our bodies and how we can harness our capabilities to their fullest potential.

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Whether you’re just starting out in the world of calisthenics or you’re a seasoned athlete looking to refine your technique and expand your skillset, “Overcoming Gravity” is a resource that deserves a spot in your training arsenal. In this review, I’ll take you through the key aspects of the book, highlighting how it can be an invaluable guide in your calisthenics journey. Let’s dive in and explore how Steven Low’s expertise can elevate your training to new heights.

Understanding the Book’s Core Concepts

I believe that in the world of calisthenics, building foundational knowledge about how our body works and how to use progressions to advance is more vital than in some other sports. “Overcoming Gravity” lays a solid foundation by introducing key concepts crucial for anyone looking to excel in bodyweight training. At the heart of this book are principles that dictate how we can effectively train, adapt, and grow.

SAID principle in bodyweight training

Steven Low masterfully introduces the concept of SAID principle, a cornerstone in understanding how our bodies adapt to the stresses we place on them.

The SAID principle stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. It’s a fundamental concept in exercise science that states the body adapts specifically to the type of demand placed on it. In other words, how you train determines how you gain. If you train for strength, your muscles and nervous system adapt to get stronger. If you train for endurance, your body adapts to be more efficient at enduring long activities.

In bodyweight training, the SAID principle is effectively used through progressive overload and skill-specific training:

  1. Progressive Overload: This involves gradually increasing the difficulty of exercises to continually challenge the body. For example, if you start with regular push-ups, over time, you might progress to diamond push-ups, and eventually to one-arm push-ups. Each progression imposes new demands, prompting your body to adapt and get stronger.
  2. Skill-Specific Training: If you’re aiming to master a specific skill, like a handstand, your training should focus on exercises that build the balance, strength, and body awareness needed for that skill. This might include practicing handstand holds against a wall, free-standing handstand attempts, and exercises that strengthen the core and shoulders.
  3. Variety in Training: While specificity is key, incorporating a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups and aspects of fitness (like flexibility and balance) can enhance overall performance and prevent overuse injuries.
  4. Monitoring Intensity and Volume: The SAID principle also involves adjusting the intensity (how hard you work) and volume (how much you do) of your workouts to match your training goals. This ensures that the body is being challenged adequately to adapt in the desired way.

Physiology of Strength and Hypertrophy

Here, “Overcoming Gravity” shines a light on the physiological underpinnings of strength development and muscle hypertrophy in the context of bodyweight training. 

Low explains how different types of muscle fibers work and how they respond to various training stimuli. This understanding is pivotal for calisthenics athletes who need to tailor their workouts to achieve specific goals – be it explosive power, endurance, or muscle growth. 

The book goes beyond just exercises, diving into the science of how our bodies adapt at a cellular level, giving athletes a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ behind their training routines.

Steven Low’s approach in “Overcoming Gravity” is not just about imparting knowledge; it’s about instilling a mindset. A mindset that sees bodyweight training not as a series of exercises, but as a continuous journey of understanding and interacting with the physics of our own bodies. 

This book guides you to think, analyze, and apply – making you not just a practitioner of calisthenics, but a student of it.

Diving Deeper into Content

“Overcoming Gravity” is more than just a training manual; it’s a deep dive into the intricacies of calisthenics. This book goes beyond the basics, offering detailed insights into programming, exercise techniques, injury prevention, and the influence of lifestyle on training.

Programming and Progression

One of the most significant contributions of this book is its detailed approach to creating personalized training programs.

Low provides a framework that helps athletes of all levels build their own routines, catering to individual needs and goals. He introduces a variety of progressions for exercises, from fundamental movements to advanced skills, ensuring a path of steady and safe advancement.

This section is particularly valuable for coaches and athletes alike, as it offers a systematic approach to scaling difficulty and managing training loads, crucial for long-term development and success in calisthenics.

Exercise Techniques and Variations

“Overcoming Gravity” excels in its comprehensive coverage of exercises. Low meticulously explains each movement, emphasizing the importance of form and technique. The book is filled with a wide range of exercises, each accompanied by detailed descriptions and illustrations, making it easier for readers to understand and execute them correctly.

This segment is a gold mine for athletes looking to expand their repertoire and for coaches seeking to provide varied and effective training to their students.

Injury Prevention and Management

Understanding and preventing injuries is critical in any sport, and calisthenics is no exception. 

“Overcoming Gravity” puts particular emphasis on injury prevention. Low dedicates a significant portion of the book to discussing common injuries encountered in bodyweight training, offering insights into prehabilitation techniques and recovery strategies. 

Constructing a routine isn’t just about pushing limits; it’s about doing so safely. The book provides insights into common injury risks associated with various exercises and offers strategies to mitigate these risks. 

This knowledge is vital for maintaining long-term health and ensuring uninterrupted progress in training.

Lifestyle Factors Influencing Training

The book also addresses how external factors like nutrition, sleep, and stress management play a crucial role in an athlete’s performance and recovery. Low’s holistic approach underscores the idea that excelling in calisthenics is not just about what happens during training sessions, but also about the choices made outside of them.

Why should you care?

This book bridges the gap between basic calisthenics and advanced gymnastics strength training in a way that is rare and incredibly useful. It’s like having a coach by your side, walking you through the detailed progressions of exercises and helping you understand the ‘why’ behind each movement.

Steven Low: Overcoming Gravity – 2nd Edition

1800+ Reviews

It’s not just another fitness book; it’s more like a training bible for those passionate about mastering their body strength and gymnastics skills.

overcoming gravity summary

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